DUBOIS — What a game, one that will be talked about for a long, long time by Clearfield Area High School boys basketball followers.
What probably was the greatest fourth quarter rally ever by a Bison team, unfortunately, fell one possession shy of a miracle comeback in their PIAA Class AAAA opener against McGuffey in the DuBois Middle School Saturday evening.
Colin Chapman went back door for the winning basket with just three seconds on the clock as the Highlanders escaped with a 48-46 victory that was a gut-wrenching heart-breaker for the Bison.
Nobody could have predicted a down-to-the-wire thriller at the outset of the fourth period.
McGuffey (19-6) had seized control at 31-20 with a 14-0 run that overlapped halftime and appeared in cruise control at the end of the third quarter with a 41-27 lead.
When Chapman cashed two foul shots for a 16-point bulge, it was unlikely that any fan in the partisan-Clearfield crowd believed, or dreamed, what would result over the last 7:36.
But, boy, did the Bison bring their fans to life and eventually have the Highlander rooters who made the long trip from southwest of Pittsburgh squirming in their seats by roaring back to completely erase that 16-point deficit.
Senior Will Myers provided the spark after netting only one point in the first 24-plus minutes.
Clearfield’s all-time leading scorer completed an old-fashioned three-point play on a drive and, 36 seconds later, followed up with a three-pointer from the left wing.
“That’s just Will’s character,” Bison coach Nate Glunt said. “He always gives everything he has. His shots weren’t falling like they usually do, but he didn’t let that stop him from playing hard on defense and getting to the basket and making plays.”
And he wasn’t finished by any means, punctuating a drive with a scooping layup and turning an offensive rebound into a twisting bank shot with an and-one for his 11th consecutive point over a span of two minutes and 17 seconds.
“We went to our trapping defense hoping to change the momentum, and it worked,” Glunt noted. “Our kids just got active. They were able to get some deflections, get a couple stops, get a couple charges. It was just a great comeback by the kids.”
Defensive pressure by both teams slowed the scoring pace as Bison Tommy Hazel’s free throw was the only point in a three-minute stretch before Evan Brown’s putback made it 43-41 with 3:30 left.
The margin remained the same when Hazel and Highlander junior Trent Belleville went 1-for-2 at the charity stripe in the next minute.
Belleville, whose quickness and agility in the low post produced 24 points, put McGuffey up 46-42 at the 1:08 mark with two free throws that crawled around the rim before falling.
Then, Clearfield (23-2) drew even when Evan Brown grabbed a loose ball on a scramble under the hoop and tossed it in, the defense created its seventh turnover of the quarter via a jump ball and Myers drove for two with 32 seconds remaining.
Overtime seemed imminent the way the Bison were keeping the Highlanders on the perimeter, but Sean Edlis received a pass in the high post, turned, spotted Chapman cutting past his defender from the right wing and delivered a perfect one-bounce feed that the Highlander senior converted into the winning basket.
“They did that three times, but that’s a credit to them,” Glunt said. “We didn’t give that to them. They’re a well-coached team, and they did a good job executing that play. We had guys in position, but they cut hard, the pass was on the money.”
Chapman’s ensuing foul shot was off the mark, bouncing into the left corner where Dave McKenzie ran it down to give the Bison one last chance, even if it was a slim one.
With 2.2 seconds showing, their only option was to get a desperation shot off a long pass, but Brown’s heave intended for a streaking Hazel was picked off by Chapman just inside the foul line.
And, for the second year in a row, the Bison saw their season end with a tough-to-swallow loss to a WPIAL team in the first round of the state playoffs. Last March, they had a fourth-quarter lead disappear when Mars rallied to win their Class AAA match-up 66-60.
This one will be much, much harder to digest, though.
“It’s hard right now,” Glunt said. “To come back like they did from being down against a really good team, it’s just a credit to their character and their work ethic and all the little things to not quit. It’s a total team, from our bench being excited the whole time to underclassmen getting steals and taking charges. It’s just awesome.”
While Myers wound up with 14 points for a four-year career total of 1,436, Hazel and Brown accounted for all but four of the Bison’s points through three quarters, finishing with 18 and 11, respectively. Hazel amassed 1,146 over his three-year career to rank seventh on Clearfield’s all-time boys scoring list.
“Tommy and Evan did a really good job, like they always do, getting to the basket, making some shots and giving us some second chance opportunities,” Glunt said. “And, then, Dave was doing what Dave does, playing good defense, getting rebounds, running the floor hard. And I’m really happy how Reese (Wilson) came out and played the second half with great intensity. Jon (Gates) played really good offense, creating some shots for other guys. And Ryan (Chew) comes and takes two or three charges. Total team effort.”
In the final analysis, poor shooting did in the Bison as they shot less than 33 percent from the floor with 17 field goals and made only one free throw in their six two-shot trips to the foul line. The only other time they scored less than 51 points was in their other loss, 57-46 to Central on Jan. 9.
“We didn’t make shots we usually make, but that’s basketball,” Glunt said. “That happens.”
Lack of offense was especially costly in the first half as they scored only 20 points, their lowest two-quarter total of the season.
Compounding their production was the Highlanders were milking the clock on numerous possessions with their motion offense, often making double-figure passes before finding an open shooter.
Most of the time that was Belleville, who scored 11 of his game-high 24 points.
“He’s a nice post player,” Glunt said. “He has good footwork, and he makes tough shots. And 33 is an excellent guard.”
Chapman chipped in seven points of his 15 points, including the last four of McGuffey’s closing 8-0 run that set the halftime score at 25-20 after being outscored 10-5 over the first six minutes of the second quarter.
Belleville burned the Bison paint defense for 10 points as the Highlanders expanded their lead with a 16-7 advantage in the third quarter.
Then, the Bison mounted their furious charge that wasn’t quite enough to extend their season.
“But back-to-back-to-back District 9 champs, back-to-back Mountain League champs, 23 wins, that‘s a credit to the kids and my assistant coaches,” Glunt said. “I have so much help, and those guys put in so much time to the kids, and the kids respond.”
Myers, Hazel, Brown and McKenzie have been integral parts as starters for Glunt’s three teams that are leaving behind quite a legacy, including a 66-9 record.
“Like I’ve said before, yes, they are really good basketball players, but they do all the little things to be great,” Glunt said. “With schoolwork. With being great teammates. They treat the coaches the right way. Just please and thank you. And they’re better people than they are basketbll players. I’m just so fortunate to have coached them.
Ethan McGinnis, Jarrit Wagner and Chris O’Shea are the other Bison who will be graduating.
“We’ll have our banquet, and that’ll be tough,” Glunt said. “Like coach Laz (Rob Lazauskas) said, the hardest thing about this profession is moving forward, especially with a group like this.
“But our underclassmen have stepped up and done a good job. We’ll take some time off, and we’ll get back to work and see if we can make another run.”
Glunt tipped his hat to the loyal fans one more time, saying, “We are so appreciative of the community support, especially at the playoffs. Our fans are loud and into it. They’re respectful and not degrading to the other team. They’re just cheering for our kids.”
The Highlanders’ reward for the first PIAA tourney win in school history is a rematch with New Castle, which beat them 73-40 in the District 7 (WPIAL) quarterfinals.
McGUFFEY — 48
Andrew Allender 2 0-0 5, Trent Belleville 9 6-8 24, Sean Edlis 0 0-0 0, Chase Miller 1 0-2 2, Colin Chapman 6 2-4 15, C.J. Cole 1 0-0 2, David Chapman 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 19 8-14 48.
CLEARFIELD — 46
Evan Brown 5 1-3 11, Reese Wilson 0 0-0 0, Dave McKenzie 1 1-2 3, Tommy Hazel 6 3-6 18, Will Myers 5 3-4 14, Jon Gates 0 0-0 0, Ryan Chew 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 17 8-15 46.
Three-Point Field Goals – McGuffey 2 (Allender, C. Chapman); Clearfield 4 (Hazel 3, Myers 1).
Score by Quarters
McGuffey 12 13 16 7 – 48
Clearfield 10 10 7 19 – 46
Officials – Chris Rickens, Dave Heim and Sean Albright.
Final Bison Scoreboard:
|12/09||@ Curwensville||81 – 38||1 – 0|
|12/13||CENTRAL||53 – 41||2 – 0|
|12/16||@ Huntingdon||68 – 51||3 – 0|
|12/19||@ Bellefonte||56 – 33||4 – 0|
|12/22||TYRONE||65 – 40||5 – 0|
|12/29&30||Purchase Line Christmas Tourney|
|12/29||vs. Northern Cambria||82 – 23||6 – 0|
|12/30||vs. Purchase Line||65 – 45||7 – 0|
|01/03||@ Brookville||83 – 59||8 – 0|
|01/06||@ Bald Eagle Area||73 – 30||9 – 0|
|01/09||@ Central||46 – 57||9 – 1|
|01/11||PENNS VALLEY||ppd.||9 – 1|
|01/12||PENNS VALLEY||51 – 34||10 – 1|
|01/13||@ Philipsburg-Osceola||75 – 28||11 – 1|
|01/19||CLARION-LIMESTONE||82 – 48||12 – 1|
|01/20||HUNTINGDON||67 – 54||13 – 1|
|01/23||@ DuBois||62 – 47||14 – 1|
|01/25||BELLEFONTE||73 – 40||15 – 1|
|01/27||@ Tyrone||79 – 45||16 – 1|
|01/30||PUNXSUTAWNEY||65 – 41||17 – 1|
|01/31||BALD EAGLE AREA||ppd.||17 – 1|
|02/01||BALD EAGLE AREA||68 – 36||18 – 1|
|02/03||@ Penns Valley||66 – 55||19 – 1|
|02/06||CURWENSVILLE||85 – 37||20 – 1|
|02/08||PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA||78 – 47||21 – 1|
|02/22||District 9-AAAA Semifinals|
|02/22||vs. BRADFORD||59 – 35||22 – 1|
|03/02||District 9-AAAA Finals|
|03/02||vs. Punxsutawney||59 – 45||23 – 1|
|03/11||vs. McGuffey||46 – 48||23 – 2|